Kenora residents not surprised by closure

Local residents expressed sadness, anger, and disappointment—but not surprise—after Abitibi-Consolidated shut down its newsprint mill yesterday, throwing 340 people out of work.
“They never wanted to run this mill and now they’re not going to run it,” said Glen Morrison, president of the local United Steelworkers union at the mill.
The decision puts an end to months of speculation about the plant’s future.
The company first announced an operational review in January. They followed up in July with a decision to shut down one machine permanently, and the other one temporarily, effective in October.
But when the paper stopped rolling off the machines Oct. 23, they never started back up again.
“I’m really wondering if they were just stringing us along the whole time,” said Chris Van Walleghem, president of the local Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union at the mill.
Over the last few weeks, talks between the company and the unions have been on again and off again as they tried to hash out a deal to save the mill.
The most recent round of talks broke down Dec. 2.
Van Walleghem said the six local unions tried hard and offered the company a number of concessions, but none of it was enough to get the mill running.
“We were willing to give them a Wal-Mart contract but nothing was good enough,” Van Walleghem said.
Abitibi spokesman Denis Leclerc said a number of factors conspired against the viability of the Kenora mill, including the steady increase in the value of the Canadian dollar, a declining newsprint market, the financial situation of the company, and the lack of an agreement with local unions over an operational structure.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint one aspect because you have to look at the global situation,” Leclerc said. “We came up with the evidence that we cannot find a long-term solution for Kenora, unfortunately.”
Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield was clearly upset with the news and the impact it will have on the community.
“First you have to absorb it and then you can go from there,” he said.